Beyond Contractarianism?

13 – 17 June 2016   print this page

Course directors:

Nenad Miščević, University of Maribor, Croatia
Boran Berčić, University of Rijeka, Croatia
Piers Norris Turner, Ohio State University, Columbus, United States
Eric MacGilvray, Ohio State University, Columbus, United States

Course description:

Our aim is to assess the dominant tradition in liberal political philosophy, namely, contractarianism. This tradition—sometimes also called “public reason liberalism” and associated with the names of John Rawls, David Gauthier, Charles Larmore, Gerald Gaus, and others—has been the subject of significant criticism recently. But it remains dominant within liberal theory because of the widespread recognition that legitimacy in a modern state must be sensitive to the circumstances of reasonable moral disagreement among those living within a society. The coercive power of the state, they argue, must therefore be justified in terms that all reasonable citizens can accept, or not be legitimate at all. We propose a conference that explores the limits of, and seeks possible alternatives to, this contractarian way of thinking. In particular, the conference will address the following questions: (1) What qualifies a political position as “liberal”? (2) Do the ideals of reasonable consent and public justifiability provide a coherent and attractive basis for a liberal politics? (3) Is consequentialism – the view that the good is prior to, or subsumes, the right – compatible with liberalism? (4) What, if anything, can we learn from the long line of liberal thinkers, stretching from Hume to Mill to Popper, who reject (and sometimes ridicule) contractarian premises?

List of participans for 2016 course:

Richard Arneson (UCSD)

Elvio Baccarini (Rijeka)

Boran Berčić (Rijeka)

Thomas Christiano (Arizona)

Ann Cudd (Boston U.)

David Estlund (Brown)

Michael Fuerstein (St. Olaf)

Amanda Greene (UCL)

Friderik Klamfer (Maribor)

Cécile Laborde (UCL)

Charles Larmore (Brown)

Eric MacGilvray (Ohio State)

Nenad Miščević (Rijeka/Maribor/CEU)

Fabienne Peter (Warwick)

Enzo Rossi (Amsterdam)

George Sher (Rice)

Nicholas Southwood (ANU)

Piers Turner (Ohio State)